Month: February 2017

He Always Says That

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I’m going.

I’ll be here for a little bit yet, but I’m going. Soon.

Today I told them. The entire congregation. Well, everyone who was here between the various worship services. My Bride said that as I read the letter saying I was leaving, the congregation stopped breathing.

And my little girl burst into tears.

She’s not mad at me – or if she is, she’s doing a terrible job of being mad. We cuddled this afternoon and played games together and roughhoused. My oldest seems to be taking it in stride. My youngest had no clue what’s going on. He’s just whizzing around the house like normal, fighting invisible bad guys.

When I announced, there were a few tears. Apparently a lot of people were very surprised. But then again, they didn’t see the need of the other congregation. They don’t see the problems here that I’m no longer equipped to deal with. And while they know I love them, they have not seen my heart.

I should be struggling with a mix of elation and loss right now. Elation that I’m going someplace new to serve in a new adventure. What isn’t appealing about that? Loss that I am leaving so many people I love so, so deeply.

You know what I have instead?

Mostly anger.

My leadership doesn’t get it. They refuse to get it. Today we met after I announced to walk through the steps of getting a next pastor. And… they want to skip the steps. Or they want to not do some, as, “Well, that doesn’t matter.” Or they want to jump up the ladder of authority and just tell them what we’re demanding.

Basically… now that I’ve announced I’m leaving, all the problems are coming out to play. And until I leave, it’s going to get worse. And after I leave, it’ll continue to get worse. But until I leave, I have to deal with it.

But then… that anger pushes me out to elation. Because I’m going someplace new. A place still infected with sin. A place that still desperately needs Jesus. But a place with different problems. A place where I can serve. Maybe I even learned enough that I can do things better there.

Maybe.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. A tunnel lined with anger. And with grief. And yes, just plain sorrow.

But I have a couple months to say good-bye. To serve here. To prepare the people for a time between.

I think… I think I’m ready.

I don’t want to go. I was telling my Bride last week that I love where I’m at. I love (most of) the people I serve. I love this city. I love the unique opportunities for worship here. I don’t want to leave.

But between problems at leadership here, and the other place seeming to fit my abilities perfectly, and their need for a pastor and not having a safety net of surrounding congregations… it’s clear where I should be.

But even with the problems here… I don’t want to go.

But it’s time for a new season.

So… I’m going.

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The Utter Weariness of Being the Cat

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I naturally “lean forward” in a lot of what I do. I think a lot about how things will effect the future. Should we start this Bible study? What will that mean two years from now? How about in Lent or Advent? Is this something permanent or only for this one “unit”?

And right now… I am living two lives. Or, rather, I am planning two futures.

What Bible study should I be planning now to “synch up” with Easter? What’s our outreach strategy this year for Easter? How will we follow up on those prospects after Easter? Are we planning anything big for over the summer? What about the fall – what needs to start getting organized now? Who do I need to talk to so we can lay some groundwork? What seeds do I need to plant in the back of people’s minds so when it comes up in six months they’re prepared? All these questions revolve around my staying here. If I’m not here, the questions change considerably.

What needs to get done before I leave? What do I need to leave behind? What paperwork needs to be completed so the church can go for a while without a home pastor? What plans do I need to set up for a new congregation? What are my priorities when I touch down? Who do I need to talk to first? What worship planning do I have to do? How can I learn to do outreach there well?

And I’m living out two lives at once. I’m living out a future here and a future there.

I’m a cat.

And it is exhausting. I tried having a normal Sunday today. And a normal Sunday already calls for a lot of energy, as I see the bulk of my people today. It’s when I touch base with the most people in a very small amount of time. Most pastors are tired out after Sunday worship; for me, as an introvert, it’s even more wearying.

But today was worse. People asking me directly and indirectly what my plans are. Me advertising a new Bible study – that whether I go or stay will be able to wrap up before any possible leaving date (barring snowmaggedon). Me trying to move forward into… into two timelines, effectively.

I am here and I am not here.

I am looking forward to “collapsing the function” and having one future, not two, laid out before me. I am looking forward to having just one set of circumstances to look forward to.

Soon.

In the meantime… I shall continue being a cat.

Either way… God has laid out two good futures. It’s not a choice of life or death, but of good and good. I see green pastures to one side, and green pastures on the other. I stand on the edge. Which good future will I have?

In either place, Jesus is still Jesus. The one who loved a sinner like me enough to take my place on the gallows is still Lord there and he is still Lord here, and my decision cannot change that.

So while it is exhausting…

wherever this cat goes, it will still be good for him.

Your Heart Lies

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Today someone I love tried to kill herself.

She’s safe now. She’s been chaptered and is getting the help she needs. I sat with her at the hospital for hours, reminding her of what she had forgotten: No matter what her heart says, she is not alone, and she is so very, very loved.

You.

I don’t know who you are. But I know that the storm comes, and it rips away any warmth you’ve gathered to yourself. I know how it tears away any pictures you have of yourself as lovable or worthy of love. The winds claw at your skin and your eyes and it leaves you raw.

I know that storm, too. I know it so very, very well.

And I know what your heart calls out in the storm. I screams that you are alone. That you are abandoned. That you are worthless. That you should feel only shame, because that is all that is in you. I know how the razor beckons.

Dear one: Your heart lies.

Do not believe it. Fight. Oh, fight.

But you are so weak!

I know. Of course you are. You are like me. The storm is so much bigger than we are, and we cannot ignore our own hearts.

But I know someone greater than your heart. He’s greater than mine, too.

This is what you need to hear when the storm destroys you. This is what you need to hear when your heart lies.

It is true that you have done things that should bring shame. It is true that you are not as good as you like to show yourself to be. It is true that you aren’t as lovable as you like pretending.

But it is true that you are loved far, far more than you could ever imagine.

Here is Jesus, who knows you in your darkness. He knows you in your shame. He knows what you want to do to yourself.

And he loves you.

Oh, beloved, you are not alone. He stands beside you on the cliff. He wraps his arms around you. He holds you close. And then he is suddenly before you, taking the full brunt of that evil wind. He cries out for you. He loves you so much he suffers for you. He knows what it is to weep. He knows what it is to spend sleepless nights, knowing that tomorrow the sun would not rise for him. He knows!

And he is with you. He has not left your side.

Your heart says you are alone. It lies. Jesus is beside you.

Your heart says you are abandoned. It lies. Jesus has not forsaken you.

Your hearts says you are not loved. It lies. Jesus loves you so much he dies for you.

If you have come to that dark place where you might make the choices for life to end…. do not believe your heart. Do not do it. Your heart lies.

Your Jesus knew you. He left heaven for you, to become your brother. He lived for you, knowing pain and temptation. And he died for you.

But, beloved, he lives for you again. Death was not the end of his story. He lives, and he will never die again. He lives for you, standing before the Throne of his Father, speaking on your behalf. He’s going before his Father – for you! And because he lives – you also will live. Your story does not end in storm. Your story ends with the One who has loved you so much.

Your heart lies.

Hear the Truth: You are loved, even in your sin, even in your shame.

You are loved.